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TEX@SEA: Saunders gets hit with chopper, makes play

Joe Saunders is done settling for OK.

In his mind, the Rangers left-hander has already done it too many times this season.

"The last few starts have been decent, but they could have been better," Saunders said Wednesday. "That's the goal, not to have an OK start, but a good start."

He'll get his next chance Friday, when the Rangers head to Anaheim for the opener of a three-game series with the Angels.

Saunders pitched for the Angels from 2005-10, and he was an All-Star in '08 before being traded to Arizona. When he takes the mound Friday, he'll certainly see a crop of fresh faces.

"Every team switches and changes so much, there are not many left. I think [Jered] Weaver, [Howie] Kendrick and [Erick] Aybar," Saunders said of his former Halos teammates. "That's pretty much it. Same stadium, new team."

In his most recent start, the 33-year-old gave up eight hits and two earned runs in six innings Saturday against the Mariners.

With his previous start falling on Saturday, Saunders will have had five full days of rest. Friday's game is the seventh of a nine-game road trip to the West Coast for the Rangers. The focus, Saunders said, is on pounding the zone early.

"The challenge is going to be strike one. That's the goal, throw strike one and get ahead ... be on the offensive," Saunders said. "Controlling the count is big, and getting early outs, going on the attack and being aggressive, attacking the strike zone and going right after hitters."

The Rangers will meet up with left fielder Josh Hamilton, who played for Texas for six seasons before heading to Anaheim -- a team that Texas manager Ron Washington knows is on the rise.

"They are getting their team back together. Albert [Pujols] is healthy; Hamilton is back. Adding those two really helps," Washington said. "Their pitching is better. They're tough -- they have always been tough as far as I'm concerned."

The Angels have won eight of 16 in the month of June, following a 5-3 loss to Cleveland in 10 innings on Thursday. The Halos will enter this series in second place behind the A's after a road trip in which they dropped two of three to both the Braves and Indians.

Garrett Richards is starting the series opener for the Angels. The right-hander was originally slated to start Thursday, but the postponement on Wednesday pushed C.J. Wilson back a day. Richards is having an All-Star-caliber season, with a 2.87 ERA, 87 strikeouts, a 1.10 WHIP and just two homers allowed in 87 2/3 innings. Catcher Hank Conger certainly thinks so.

"Personally, for me, quality-wise and stuff-wise and everything, I think he's an All-Star pitcher, and that's just how I feel about it," Conger said. "I think by the time this season is over -- not to put pressure on him or anything -- you're going to look back at his numbers and you're going to be like, 'Wow. That's a really good season for a guy who's in his first year of being an everyday starter.'"

Angels: Calhoun finding a rhythm
In a single game, Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun raised his batting average from .256 to .276 after going 4-for-5 with a homer, two RBIs and three runs scored against Cleveland on Tuesday.

Calhoun is finding a groove offensively, something he initially struggled with after coming back from an ankle injury he sustained in mid-April. Calhoun, a .288 career hitter against lefties, has historically been strong against southpaws, which bodes well for him when Saunders takes the mound Friday.

"He really started getting into his game when he hurt his ankle," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "When he came back, there's no doubt that he wanted to pick it up as fast as he could where he could contribute, and I think he got a little bit too big with his swing. But I think he's definitely found a comfort zone."

Rangers: Moreland likely out until the spring
After flirting with the idea of forgoing ankle reconstruction surgery for a simpler procedure that would only sideline him for three to four weeks, Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland will indeed undergo surgery Monday. He's expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the season, and he should be ready for Spring Training next season.

Moreland has been on the disabled list since June 8, and he'll end his season hitting .247 with two homers and 23 RBIs in 52 games. Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina will perform the surgery.

Moreland missed time each of the past two seasons because of hamstring problems, and the Rangers believe that his ankle may have contributed to those issues.

"He has also had lower back stuff that we really didn't talk about that he played through," general manager Jon Daniels said. "In talking to him, this might put an end to the issues he has had to fight through."

Worth noting
• Adrian Beltre enters Friday's opener with 2,495 career hits. He needs five more to become the sixth third baseman with 2,500 hits. The first five are George Brett (3,154), Wade Boggs (3,010), Brooks Robinson (2,848), Chipper Jones (2,726) and Buddy Bell (2,514).

• The Angels have dropped seven of their past eight meetings against the Rangers, and they went 4-15 against them last year.

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